Texas Instruments has launched its new S2K chipset under its DLP Cinema technology banner which has been expressly targeted for global cinema screens that have not yet installed a digital cinema projector and are around 20ft wide. The development is a bid to further facilitate the transition to high-end digital cinema by creating a solution for smaller, regional or rural screens that have so far been unable to adopt or afford the standard 2K (or 4K) DLP Cinema solution of its three major OEMs, namely Barco, Christie and NEC.
The advent of the new solution comes at a time when the industry has already achieved majority digital cinema status and the progress of roll-out in North America, Europe and most of Asia Pacific is now occurring on an industrial scale. As at end Q1 2012, there were an estimated total of 69,500 d-cinema screens in the approximately 60 international territories tracked by Cinema Intelligence, which equates to a 56.3 per cent average global conversion rate. Meanwhile, in North America, which is the most advanced region, the current d-cinema conversion rate is now fast approaching 70 per cent (68.9 per cent as at Q1 2012).
The addressable market for the new chip is expected to be initially niche but potentially significant in some markets that have not yet fully integrated digital cinema technology. It could also provide a more cost effective solution for larger exhibitors that also have smaller screen venues in their estate. The new solution is expected to be commercially available by all of three official TI licensees later in the 2012 calendar year.
It is not yet known the exact format the new projectors will take, but scaling down costs will be a key concern, in order to become viable for the target base. As a result, manufacturers may look at further cost savings and efficiencies through an integrated solution (projector and server unit/IMB) either instead of a stand-alone projector or in addition to. Regardless of design, the new units are likely to be in the region of 20-30 per cent cheaper than existing models, although that has yet to be seen or confirmed and will depend on the architecture chosen by each manufacturer (design a new projector or build on existing models).
Currently, major territories or regions that have not yet seen significant traction in d-cinema roll-out are Latin America, Middle East, parts of Asia, such as India as well as smaller territories and particular screen segments in Eastern Europe. For Latin America, the dearth of available VPF deals has been the major protagonist. For other markets such as India and more generally smaller screen venues, there has also previously been the issue of suitability in conjunction with cost. The new chip will meet ISO standards as well as allow for higher frame rates and 3D capabilities, according to TI itself. The announcement comes as rival projector technology group Sony announced it had deployed 13,000 projectors at cinema level in April 2012.
The launch of the new series is also timely for the industry as remaining screens require a solution before they are left behind and branded at risk as 35mm in turn becomes either niche or unavailable. The introduction of a lower cost solution will be beneficial for all industry stakeholders, whether included in a VPF solution or not, given that the targeted smaller screens (under 20ft) can still peform at required levels. As well as providing a solution for smaller screens in more mature screen markets such as Europe and parts of Asia, the solution could also further expand the addressable market to screens that were not previously considered candidates for d-cinema conversion such as rural screens in India and China.